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From social media to social circles, the pressure of conforming to societal expectations can tear apart even the most resilient individuals. Not everyone is guilty of creating a falsified self-image, but everyone is victim to public judgment.

Throughout life, people mature not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Mental and emotional development is unique in that it is strongly influenced by an individual’s environment. Some cultures prioritize education while others mandate religion. Some neighborhoods uphold justice while others promote gang affiliation.

This ugly truth is relevant to all cultures and age groups, but is perhaps emphasized in adolescents. In this week’s issue, Rafael Dilones addresses the harsh expectations young Latino athletes face to excel in baseball and Mary Finnegan investigates the identity crisis of Facebook users.

Young men and women are well aware of the expectations set by their surroundings, and naturally a person will either follow or oppose the culture. The short-term gain of living up to the status quo is community acceptance while the danger of challenging common practices is social exile. Not surprisingly, most young people choose the former rather than the latter. Often times, adults reflect and regret how much they allowed themselves to be subject to peer pressure. Unfortunately this self-analysis may occur beyond the point of no return.

Time is being wasted. The illusion of enhancing resumes forces some students to join extra-curricular commitments in which they have no genuine interest when they would benefit more by participating and excelling in an activity they love.  Some students are pursuing degrees and jobs with the sole intention to impress family and friends, only to find themselves feeling empty with a career they do not enjoy.

In the wake of the passing of a beloved member of the University student body, students have been reminded that the present day is indeed a gift. Us young adults should strive to establish an identity and life purpose independent of outside opinion. There must be an increased sense of urgency. There is not enough time to be the person that societal or cultural standards expect, so any effort is meaningless. Trends fade and expectations change, but personal legacies do not. Each day should be dedicated to seeking an identity of self that will carry on beyond a physical life.

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